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Improve Your Swimming Strokes

Swimming is a low impact sport and enjoyable when done right. You'll blast fat while sculpting your major muscles. Plus, little impact means no shin splints, sore feet, or knee pain. It's a Zen way to get fit. No honking horns or pounding music to contend with, just you and the water.

You can swim a lot faster with the same effort when you use the right technique and effective skills. Most people focus on increasing their propulsion through the water, giving their body alignment little or no thought. Studies show that proper technique can make swim time up to 50% faster. The trick is to glide through the water like a fish.

Know your body and what you can realistically do.
Only do strokes you know. Learn more than one swimming stroke. Breaststroke, backstroke, and side stroke can all be used both to give you a rest from crawl and to help you to stay on course. If you do a stroke the wrong way, you may encounter some discomfort.

Three Fundamentals of Swimming

Balance: The position of head and lungs affect your balance in the water. Most people swim with their head up, especially with breaststroke. Lifesavers often use the head-up swim to keep an eye on their casualty. This forces their hips to sink down. It is like they are swimming uphill and a somewhat less comfortable.

If your body is flat/horizontal or more parallel to the water-line your swimming is far more effective and you feel more comfortable in the water.

Length: The taller the person is, the faster the speed through the water. It is important that you are fully stretched horizontally in the water, as this will reduce your body's drag through the water and allow a higher speed.

Rotation: In most sports, such as baseball, when the batter swings the baseball bat they will rotate the hips to increase the power of the swing. The same principle is applied to swimming. If you engage your hips and use your body's core muscles it will increase power.

Efficient Swimming Stroke

An efficient stroke significantly reduces wasted energy output through less drag in the water and a cleaner execution of hand and arm entry and recovery. When considering a swimming technique for any stroke, analysis should follow the format described below, in this order:

The leg kick controls your body position in the water, while the arm cycle will provide the propulsive force. The timing between the two is vital to the efficiency of the given stroke for a greater speed through the water with minimum wasted energy.

Analyse and improve your breathing technique so it does not disrupt your overall technique and reduce your efficiency. Imagine a straight line going from your starting point to your finish point. Keep your entire body parallel to this straight line at all times. Think about cutting through the water, not fighting against it.

Work on your body alignment to improve your swimming times. Shaping your body like a vessel has more impact on your time than hand movement.

To reduce drag, you should be consciously aware of what your body is doing. Reduce and then eliminate any actions that aren’t required to propel you forward. Have a friend video you while you swim so that you can see how you’re swimming.

In swimwear or speedy bodysuits you may get away with a bad swimming stroke. You still move ahead somehow. The moment you tow a casualty or wear clothes that slow you down, you'll notice how bad your stroke might be and that you're not going anywhere fast.

Swimming in clothes will quickly highlight issues with your swimming stroke. The added resistance requires that you adapt your swimming stroke and fine tune it. Any adjustments you make will immediately result in a clear diffrence of speed and effort. This gives you the right feedback you need to adjust your stroke. As soon as you improve your skill, your speed picks up quickly.

Reader Comment: Swim Training Tip

In our lifesaving team we practice all swimming strokes fully clothed. I wasn't convinced at first, but the difference it makes is remarkable, especially for our competition swimmers and strength training. Their results improve much faster now.

Hence our team coach recommends that we wear clothes for most training sessions. He says that a bad swim stroke can go unnoticed when wearing just swimwear. But when swimming in clothes it makes a lot more difference and can be noticed. Anyway, swimsuits are for wimps.
~ Robert, Toronto, Canada

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